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Saturday, January 26, 2008

A quiz. About books. How can I not? Thanks to Sheila!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

That's a tough one. I tend to read on the basis of whims as opposed to plans, so I have a lot of books that are well-reviewed on my shelves that I haven't got round to yet, and it's not a case of "irrationally cringing away" from reading them. Books like The Corrections, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Maybe Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver trilogy counts. I've owned them for years now, and I haven't even attempted to open their covers. In fact, right now they are serving literally as bookends on one shelf. Why this is so, I'm not sure; I devoured Cryptonomicon. I don't think I'm so much "irrationally cringing" away from them as thinking "Wow, that's quite a time commitment. I think I'll read something less long." But that's pretty irrational in itself, isn't it? Hmmmmm.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

I'd invite John Galt to dinner at Tom Joad's house. That should be good for a few laughs. Then I'd have Hannibal Lecter cook Galt. Yippee!

OK, I know, that's a pretty flip answer. I'd like to see a dinner featuring the three greatest wizards I've read in fiction: Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, Loren Silvercloak from The Fionavar Tapestry, and Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books. What can I say, I'm a sucker for wizards. What would we talk about? I don't know, really. I would like Gandalf to tell me some more about the nature of magic in Middle Earth, since it can get a little hard for anyone who's part of the AD&D Generation to understand why they've got this incredibly powerful wizard who never just uncorks a fireball on his enemies.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Suicide by book? What a dreadful thought. The question's slightly vague, though; would I have to finish the book before dying? Oh well, I suppose it doesn't matter. I suspect that Battlefield Earth would do the trick, although I had a college roommate who insisted that it was a grand fun read of the pulp variety. My best bet, actually, would likely be some novel by a Parisian Existentialist.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

The Bible, maybe? I tend to be upfront about my not having read something, actually. I can tend to claim love for authors on the basis of having read a single work or two of theirs, which can get inconvenient when I'm in the presence of a true fanatic: I'll claim that I love HP Lovecraft, even though I've only read two or three of his tales, for instance.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

I've never done this, either. I must lead a pretty boring reading life.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

Now, this question's too vague as well. Do I assume the VIP's tastes are similar to mine? Do I know what kind of mood the VIP is in when I make my recommendation? Anyhow, if their tastes mirror mine, I'd recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan by GGK if they're in a sad epic kind of mood, or Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore for all other moods. I would, though, do everything in my power to keep the VIP from picking up anything by Ayn Rand.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

First choice would be Russian, so I finally would have no choice but to get through The Brothers Karamazov, since it would remove "I think my translations a dud!" as an excuse. Second choice would be German, especially if the fairy's gift includes a hearing fluency as well, so I could see Der Ring des Nibelungen at last. Third? Spanish. I love the poetry of Iberia. (Here's a good example, actually, of the phenomenon I describe a couple of questions above. How much of the poetry of Iberia have a read? Very little.)

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. You can't get too much Calvin and Hobbes. (While I don't own The Complete C&H, I do own every paperback of C&H released during the strip's run, which is basically the same thing.) C&H is, as everybody already knows, full of humor, wisdom, poignance, imagination, and even joy. Yes, I think that comics and graphic novels count.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

Well, there is always the obvious: discovering new authors or tracking down books based on recommendations I see on blogs, et cetera. I also love reading what others have to say about books not so much for ideas on what books to read, but for ideas about how to read books, and how to write about books. There's nothing better than other perspectives to challenge one, and blogs yield other perspectives a-plenty.

One perspective that almost certainly didn't exist before blogs came along was that of the author while the book was in progress. The number of pro writers who blog gets longer nearly every day, and their perspectives on writing are (most times) interesting. What I've discovered that I appreciate the most, though, isn't the blogging of the nuts-and-bolts stuff that writers do, but rather their daily lives and their own reading habits.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

Wooden floors with throw rugs. My desk in one corner, beside a large window. Every other wall? Books. Of all types. Some first editions, some antique volumes. Basically, books. Books everywhere. There's got to be room for a door, and maybe a bit of wallspace around the desk for some wall art (probably Star Wars posters). A nice stereo system, preferably small but with big sound, speakers in each corner with a subwoofer. And books. Hardcover, trade paper, mass-market paper. Various knickknacks, tschotschkes, gewgaws, and the like. Candle holders galore; I love candlelight. And books, which I would arrange roughly by category but with the emphasis on "roughly", as in, not terribly organized at all. My CDs would have to be in there somewhere, and the books. Maybe a comfy armchair in a corner opposite the desk, with a footstool. I expect that there would always be a cat in my library. Oh, and the books: lots of them.

Did I mention the books?

If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. You're it!

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